What it takes to become a ‘social designer’

Social design is the application of design methodologies to solutions for complex human problems. A world battling pollution, education, inequality, and climate change requires each of us to contribute in ways we deem meaningful. There is a need for design professionals and recent design graduates to think beyond traditional (product, building, service) design through an additional lens of purpose.

Design is a tool to create environmental and social value that has a role in social development and is definitely the need of the hour.

But the question is how do designers find these opportunities? Enough design schools and institutions are not taking it upon them to urge students to think about the potential impact that they can have in the world through their work. Secondly, most people, designers included, are of the opinion that solving social problems are for government, non-profits, and CSR institutions, and hence don’t think about this as a career opportunity.

Last but not the least, one of the biggest challenges is the fact that the role of design in the social development sector is still not a mainstream concept in India and most parts of the world and hence, there are no such ‘jobs’ to begin with. Until we change this narrative and create platforms/avenues/opportunities to engage and make available careers for design professionals and recent graduates in the social development space we will not be able to grow the field and make these opportunities readily available to pursue.

 

In this article we highlight design mindsets and toolsets that can be incorporated in social development work and help prepare potential social designers for this field.

1.  Looking for impactful career choices

The first option of course is looking for opportunities to use your design skills to solve environmental and societal problems, be it in government, non-profits, CSR, or design consultancies that consult for any of these. If you decide to start on your own be mindful of the problem that your organisation will solve.

2.  Getting into the right mindset 

Whether you are already working or looking for your next gig and want to do more with your design skills start by training your muscles like a social designer.

●     Adaptability: Given the ever-changing social landscape, it is vital that our thinking is both flexible and adaptable to support future growth and change.

●     Learning through failure: The process is iterative with the need to constantly pivot in face of new learnings, insights, and data.

●     Cultivate empathy: Being empathetic is always a given in design. You might have heard it a lot. Empathy means understanding and sharing. Taking some time out to truly listen is important when you design for them. Only when you listen, you are able to understand the problem and the solutions.

●     Embrace ambiguity: There are always times that we start solving a problem and then realise after more in-depth research that the problem that we set out to solve was not the problem at all and end up learning the crux of the problem. Embracing such ambiguous moments ultimately end up leading to ‘Aha!’ moments in design.

3.  Building your toolset

Whether you are already working or looking for your next gig and want to do more with your design skills start by building a social designer toolset.

Design methods:

Design is an iterative and non-linear process that can be divided into four phases – Understanding, Looking, Making, and Testing.

Systems thinking/Mapping:

While designing for one end user, one can fall into the trap of unintended consequences for other people in the system interacting with the user. When you design, you design within a larger system, in order to leverage best experiences for all the players in the system, systems mapping is a useful tool to understand the ecosystem.

Storytelling/Communication:

Often times, explaining the problem is the hardest. Storytelling involves communicating design insights, and creating brands and bite-sized information that are easily understandable and approachable. Storytelling adds value to the user experience and involves both visual storytelling, verbal and written narratives.

Measurement and evaluation:

It’s easy to fall in love with our solutions and ideas. And hence, it’s important to create a feedback loop to ensure that our design solutions are working. Measurement and evaluation is a crucial step in social design to track progress.

4.   Social design learning resources

Last but not the least, change is the only constant so don’t wait to become a continuous learner. Here are some wonderful resources to learn and get inspired by people all around the world using design approaches in social impact.

Podcasts – Podcasts are great for inspiration and get a sneak peek into what others in the field are doing, for example Social Design Insights by the Curry Stone Foundation.

Open innovation challenges – Nothing is better than picking up a challenge with a friend or colleague – Open Innovation Practice by Ideo.

Toolkits – The wheel does not have to be reinvented each time, there are plenty of toolkits to refer

●       Design for Health by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dalberg Design, Sonder, and USAID

●      D.I.Y Toolkit by Nesta, UK

●      NYC Civic Service Design by New York City Mayor’s Office of Innovation

Talking to people in the field – There is nothing better than learning about the impact space and the role that you and your skills can play by speaking to people who are affected the most by the problem as well as those who are in the frontlines trying to solve these problems.

I hope these resources are helpful to open our minds to new ideas and possibilities whether we work for technology companies or non-profits or consultancies. The question I want to leave you with is how might we as designers incorporate strategies to be leaders of advocating for social change wherever we go?

[“source=yourstory”]

Could social media emerge as a new critical infrastructure sector?

Social media has become an important conduit for official and emergency government communications with the public. With such communications having the power to critically affect national security, social networks have become a hacker’s paradise and need to be taken more seriously.

US President Donald Trump’s official Twitter account is one example of how social media is now a popular channel for engaging with the public in realtime. At the more extreme end of the scale, recent events in Hawaii and Japan saw false missile alerts sent due to human error, causing populations to spiral into turmoil. These incidents highlight how social media accounts are becoming part of the critical infrastructure that governs our day-to-day lives.

It’s clear that communications, or mis-communications, of this kind have the potential to wreak havoc. But the question is: should the use of these social media accounts — like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and more — for official and emergency purposes, be regulated by legislation?

“Until these platforms are officially treated as critical infrastructure, we should consider applying the same cybersecurity practices followed by the energy, water, gas and ports industries.”

In Australia, telecommunications carriers are subject to the Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR), while other critical infrastructure falls under the recently introduced Security of Critical Infrastructure Act (2018). This act is primarily focused on major infrastructure assets like power and water, that supply essential services to more than 100,000 people.

In both the TSSR and the act, scope is given for the relevant minister to direct a provider or intermediary “to do, or not do, a specified thing that is reasonably necessary to protect networks and facilities from national security risks.”

Under the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act, the relevant minister can also nominate additional industry centres for inclusion, provided the minister is satisfied there is a risk that the assets or services could have a prejudicial effect on national security.

Top of the priority list currently are airports and data centres. It’s possible the minister will declare social media communications as subject to the act, but, at this stage, it’s unlikely.

Top-grade cybersecurity practices essential

So, what should governments be doing when it comes to securing social media accounts used for timely or sensitive communications? Until these platforms are officially treated as critical infrastructure, we should consider applying the same cybersecurity practices followed by the energy, water, gas and ports industries.

Government personnel operating social media for official or emergency purposes should undertake a review of how their accounts are managed. Hardening communication platforms should include stepping up password management practices. This will help eliminate the chance of delays to the delivery of critical information or the exploitation of accounts for nefarious purposes, such as issuing false or misleading information.

“To strengthen these platforms against both external and internal attacks by unauthorised personnel, government departments should treat their social media accounts as privileged.”

Hackers know the value and vulnerability of social media today, and are already hijacking official accounts. In 2017, a rogue Twitter employee shut down Donald Trump’s Twitter account for 11 minutes in an act of protest.

Disgruntled employees aren’t the only risk – hackers could use any one of several social engineering techniques, such as phishing, to gain access to passwords for social media. If they did so, they’d be able to issue false statements on a public social media account, potentially causing fear and panic.

Government personnel within specific departments or offices commonly share access to social media accounts. This means that potentially dozens of people throughout an agency have access, admin or editing rights on these platforms. Not least, passwords for these accounts are usually shared between team members, rarely changed, and often re-used across a number of accounts.

Any account with a shared or re-used password can be an easy target for a hacker or corrupt insider. There is also rarely a record of which team member published each post — increasing the possibility of a false alert being deliberate and untraceable.

Just two minutes after the missile alert was issued on Twitter in Hawaii, the governor was told it was a false alarm. While other government officials rushed to assure the public there was nothing to worry about, the governor did not tweet for more than 17 minutes. The cause of his silence? He forgot his username and password.

To strengthen these platforms against both external and internal attacks by unauthorised personnel, government departments should treat their social media accounts as privileged. That way, simple acts of forgetting, sharing or re-using passwords won’t cause delays, such as what happened in Hawaii.

Privileged account security tips

As best practice to properly secure and protect social media accounts, government departments should employ privileged account security, including:

  • Arrange transparent access: To make it harder for hackers to find and exploit credentials, authorised users must be able to seamlessly authenticate access to an account without having to remember passwords. This allows for immediate access in emergency situations, such as the incident in Hawaii.
  • Remove shared credentials: Use a digital vault to store passwords and remove the accountability challenges of shared logins. Users will then need to login individually for access to shared social media platforms.
  • Automate password rotations: Continuously changing privileged credentials safeguards against attackers using retired passwords. Regularly automating password changes can also update access privileges, reducing the possibility of an outsider getting their hands on valid credentials.
  • Review account activity: For visibility of individual users’ activity across social media accounts, a record of events can be created. This way, posts can be linked to authorised users, and rogue employees can be more easily identified.

Governments the world over are reviewing their critical infrastructure safeguards and national security precautions. As we continue to see in situations such as those in the US, Hawaii, and Japan, the public has developed a huge level of trust in communications distributed by government organisations.

Social media has become a credible and dependable medium for official communications, and it’s clear these platforms are neither inherently secure nor infallible. It’s critical to re-think how any medium used for official and emergency communications is treated and secured.

[“source=cnbc”]